Do you self-identify as Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent? Does it feel like always will be only the two major party choices?
You might be surprised to learn that the United States was formed with no parties, and our first president George Washington was decidedly against partisan politics. Nevertheless, right after his presidency, parties were born with Alexander Hamilton leading the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson leading the Democratic-Republicans, largely known for being anti-Federalist.
In most of our lifetimes American politics has been dominated by the Democrat and Republican parties, leading us to believe that is must always be so. Perhaps not. A quick review of party history in the U.S. shows that most party systems lasted only 2-4 decades before they sputtered out. Our current two-party system, aged at either 57 or 84 years depending on how you count, may have over lived its time, which may be why so many Americans now feel party-less, disillusioned, or not passionate by their party affiliation.
In 2008, a portion of the Republican party broke off and created the new Tea Party. After losing to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, many Bernie supporters called for the development of a new People’s Party. Starting a new party may be more feasible that many are led to believe. There’s an oversimplified picture story on WikiHow.com on how to do it. Better yet, watch the entertaining and easily digested 2016 TED Talk by Sandi Toksvig, a British comedic actor and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party in the U.K. Her party’s platform is incredibly simple and obvious in the party name. She claims it’s the only party that, as part of its platform, hopes to put itself out of business.
If starting a new party is not on your to-do list, what are party actions you can take? CNN recently published a list of 25 ways to be politically active. Most are local. Some include the actions recently taken by many in the defeat of the Trump/Ryan Repeal and Replace plan for the ACA. But, if you’re looking to be more actively involved, here are some additional suggestions:
- Google your state, county and party of your choice, e.g. Atlantic County Democratic Committee, or Tennessee Democrats. Something will come up.
- Do a Facebook search for a local party. In many cities and counties with smaller parties, the resource page is frequently a Facebook page.
- Find out if your state is one of the 26 that hold closed or semi-closed primaries. If so, seriously consider registering for any party just to be part of the primary process.
- If you’re still turned off by the two major parties, take a serious look at a third party operating in your state, such as Libertarian or Green. They certainly played a part in the last presidential election. Some people consider third party spoilers, but others see them as the new elements for the next phase of a US party system (see the review of the two party system link above).
You can, of course, be an arm chair party affiliate, but if you’re turned off — as many recently are — by the constant barrage of fund-raising emails and Twitter storms from both major parties, you may find more satisfaction in attending a local meeting and being more actively involved. At the very least, you may find some like-minded people and find a way to make a difference in creating some viable candidates worthy of your support in upcoming elections.